Significant progress has been made in the negotiations between Israel and the militant group Hamas for the release of hostages, according to several U.S. officials. Although no terms have been finalized yet, the officials believe that a deal could potentially be reached in the coming days. This news comes after weeks of intense discussions between the two parties. U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer expressed optimism, stating that they are closer than ever to reaching an agreement. However, it is important to note that no official confirmation has been given about the existence of a tentative deal.
Officials have been cautious about providing too many details on the hostage negotiations due to their sensitive nature. While a Washington Post story claimed that a tentative deal had been reached, White House officials rejected this notion. It is said that Israel and Hamas had allegedly agreed to release approximately 50 hostages, with Israel temporarily pausing its combat operations for five days in return. However, the White House National Security Council clarified on X that no such deal had been officially reached. The Post later changed its headline to indicate that the deal was “close” rather than definitively complete. It is clear that there is still much uncertainty surrounding the negotiations.
The timeline for reaching a deal has become a matter of hours and days, rather than weeks. Israeli ambassador Michael Herzog stated that a significant number of hostages could be freed “in the coming days.” Deputy National Security Advisor Finer also mentioned a similar timeframe. While it is not certain that a deal will be reached this week, both officials expressed optimism that significant progress has been made. The negotiations are believed to be in their final phase, with the focus now on working out minor details. Reports suggest that many of the major points of contention have already been resolved, leaving logistical terms as the remaining issue.
The negotiations between Israel and Hamas have encountered obstacles at various stages over the past few weeks. In late October, the discussions broke down when Hamas refused to cooperate until Israel allowed fuel to enter Gaza. However, the more significant sticking points have been resolved, according to Finer. While there are still areas of disagreement, they have been narrowed down considerably. Finer confidently stated that the deal would lead to the release of “more than dozens” of hostages. It is worth noting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israel will not consider a ceasefire until all of Hamas’ hostages have been freed.
With the current progress made, Israel is considering a temporary pause in attacks to facilitate the safe passage of the released hostages, rather than a complete ceasefire. This approach aims to ensure the hostages’ safety without allowing Hamas to regroup and resume attacks. Herzog emphasized that it is essential to understand that they are only suggesting a brief cessation of hostilities, not a permanent resolution. Demonstrations demanding a ceasefire have taken place worldwide since the October 7 attack by Hamas. While some government officials have joined the calls, Israeli leaders, including Netanyahu and Herzog, have rejected the idea, arguing that a ceasefire would provide an opportunity for Hamas to regain strength.
As negotiations between Israel and Hamas inch closer to a resolution, the potential release of hostages remains a top priority. While progress has been made, there are still uncertainties surrounding the final terms and timeline. The international community continues to monitor the situation closely, hoping for a swift and peaceful resolution.